Mask Sheet War – Inside K-beauty

fight cat

A little history…

When someone ask me what the most unique Korean beauty product is, I will say “sheet mask” without 1 second of hesitation. There are millions of mask sheets from all (not even almost) Korean brands, from 99 cents mask of Skinfood to 40$ per piece luxury mask of Amore Pacific. Actually, from the troika era of Korean road shop (Early 2000, Missha / The Face Shop / Skinfood,) 1000 Korean won (1$) masks were popular. However, the launching of Genics’ Cell Derma Hydrogel Mask Pack, aka Ha Yumi Pack (하유미팩) triggered sheet mask war in K-beauty industry. They launched through Hyundai Home Shopping and GS Home Shopping, they sold more than 10 million USD (Korea is a small country, this is pretty a lot lol). Now,hydro gel masks are from everywhere, but back then, Cell Derma’s hydro gel mask was somewhat innovative and sensational in Korean beauty industry, because Genic is the first company, made sheet mask with hydro gel in Korea. After the success of Genic, many Korean companies jumped on “mask sheet” bandwagon.

Now, the big 3 are

1. Mediheal : Mediheal began with small company, providing low-priced sheet mask to Olive Young (Korean cosmetic multi-shop). They have become famous with their signature hydration mask “NMF Aquaring mask.” With an interesting packaged design with IV bottle, they got fame on internet as well. Mediheal has very specific segmentation on their products. There are 11 different kinds of masks for their basic line “essential.” They have several hydro gel masks as well as eye patches.


Recommendation: WHP White hydrating Charcoal Mineral Mask

Mediheal’s best seller with their signature NMF Aquaring line. Good amount of Niacinamide & Sodium hyaluronate prevents pigmentation while moisturizes your skin. The sheet is black because it contains charcoal of Quercus phylliraeoides (They said it’s for clarifying but I could not find any reliable article, so I just mentioned this as a fun factor.)


Leaders: Leaders originally owned by a medical net work (Leader Plastic Surgery & Dermatology Clinic) but now it is sold to other cosmetic brand. Before, they used to produce cosmeceuticals only, but now they have become a kwon mask sheet brand. With mediheal’s Aquaring, Leaders’ Aquaringer became popular but now they make lots of sheet masks with interesting sheet material (fermented coconut gel) and pretty functional package.

Leaders First Ampoule Mask ( Snail Therapy): The mask contains in the test tube (시험관팩). They used chamomile extract / snail mucin as its BASE, meaning no water. It contains other moisturizing agent and no phenoxy ethanol nor parabens. It contains LOTS of serum so you can keep pour the serum on the top of the mask. (In my personal & humble opinion, this is the best sheet mask for me. Lol)


SNP got on the business with low priced pore masks then quickly became a best selling internet based (mostly Gmarket and Auction) cosmetic brand in late 2000. They introduced animal sheet masks and sold more than 10 million pieces, and keep introducing sheet masks with interesting features.

Recommendation: Bird’s nest Aqua Ampoule Mask

I’m not sure what Bird’s nest extract can do for our skin, it was added for the third ingredient. Witch Hazel extract and Centella Asiatica extract calm your sensitive skin and promote healing. It feels quite refreshing but be aware it contains ethanol, if it concerns you.

Rising Stars


Jay Jun: Brand name from a famous plastic surgery clinic in Korea. They got famous with “Refine to Shine” black mask. They are one of the first company that attached serum and cleanser in a separated pouch

“refine to shine” mask sheets” It contains good amount of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and moisturizing agent. Cleansing foam and serum is attached as well, so it is really convenient for travel.


Papa’s recipe: Papa’s recipe is a mega rookie in the market. The CEO began to make organic jojoba oil for his daughter, and they got famous with the pure white cream. Their My bottle lemon / Aloe soothing gel is also well known, along with its famous Bom Bee mask.

Bom Bee Honey Mask: Probably, the year 2016’s best seller in Korea, Korean bloggers call it “Honey Jar Mask” because of the printing on the mask sheet envelope. It smells very honey, and contains honey derived ingredients such as honey extract and propolis. Trehalose & hyaluronic were also added as moisturizing agent along with butylenes glycol and small amount of allantoin for anti-inflammatory function. It’s also phenoxy ethanol and paraben free product.


I am also on Reddit and /r/asianbeauty

Real Moisturizing Mist – Holika Holika Good Cera Ultra Essence Mist


Holika Holika is a comparatively new runner in Korean “road-shop” cosmetics. However, in a short period of time, they gain absolute fame because of their best-selling “Good-Cera Super  line.”  Because of its rich but non-sticky texture and excellent moisturizing ability, Holika Holika’s super cream got its fame in a relatively short time. Since it has similar texture and package design with IOPE’s Super vital cream but much more competitive priced, it is considered as a front runner for rich texture moisturizing cream among mid-low priced cosmetics. Today I am gonna do review on their mist, not the cream since I am sure you have read much posting about the cream from other bloggers.


Ingredient Check

Unlike many other moisturizing mist, Skin and Good Cera mist has bit more stickier texture. Watery mists definitely can be refreshing, but we should know they dry up our face even more quickly because they evaporate from our skin easily. Even though Good Cera mist is a bit richer and stickier texture, it is NOT unpleasant feeling though. It stays on your skin longer because of it contains decent amount of butylene glycol and pentylene glycol (they are fatty acid,) and ceramide. Meaning, this mist is more like a mixture of water and moisturizing fatty acids that can protect the evaporation of water from your skin. Since those moisturizing agents are placed in the 2,3 and 4th after the distilled water, I don’t see any discrepancy from their claim and actual ingredient. They don’t contain any of paraben family for preservation so that people with history of allergy with paraben family can use this product more safely than other mists. However it contains penoxyethanol and disodium EDTA (even though it is negligible amount) for the preservation. Furthermore, it doesn’t contain mineral oil or any other animal driven fatty acids; people who are hesitant to use cosmetics with them can use this product as well. This product is a excellent moisturizing mist for winter especially for someone who has dry skin, and because of the glycol based fatty acid, this could be inadequate to use for someone who have oily skin or acne.


After Thought

In US, we can buy it from Holika Holika’s website ( for 20.9 USD. Even though it is slightly more pricey than buying in South Korea (13200 KW,) I think it has excellent value for money. It contains decent amount of moisturizing agents and nicely designed spray that makes very fine mist.  If you are looking for a glow mist rather than moisturizing mist, Espoir’s glow fixer is more recommended. Compared to other essential mists from other luxury brands, it is reasonably priced.

PROS: fine mist with amazing moisturizing function

CONS: If you do not like ginger&flower fragrance, you won’t like this.

IDEA: Routine mist under air-conditioner & heater, definitely buy agian.


Less Appreciated Upscale Korean Cosmetic Brands

I know it does not make much sense to spend $100 for a serum, especially when you buy K-beauty products. ╮(╯▽╰)╭We all know Korean cosmetics are known for their great value for money. But reasonably priced, high quality “road shop” brands or internet bestsellers are not all about the K-beauty.╮(╯_╰)╭ Actually, there are a few luxury brands with long history and philosophy that has provided firm ground of Korean cosmetic business’ growth. So today, I’d like to introduce those less appreciated upscale Korean brands.o(^^o) (o^^)o


Whoo (The history of Whoo)

So now we know LG is not all about LCD panel or smart phones. Whoo is a sub-brand of LG Life & Science, the second largest cosmetic producer in South Korea. 0^◇^0)/ The history of Whoo brand has launched in 2003 with the core philosophy of “applying ancient empress’ secret to the cosmetics.” As they claimed, they used lots of oriental medicine extracts and recipes from traditional Chinese/Korean medicine.

Product Recommendation>>

Gongjinhyang: Seul Whitening Cream

Whoo’s one of the most famous brightening cream. Cooling, watery texture is really refreshing and moisturizes skin very well. As they claimed, this cream contains many oriental herb extracts inspired by traditional oriental medicine.




Korean Ginseng Corporation’s upscale cosmetic brand. They have very similar “traditional medicine” concept with Sulwhasoo or The history of Whoo.*^O^* But Donginbi’s mother company has a prominent research facility for ginseng and they developed unique active ingredients for Donginbi such as red ginseng polysaccharide or red ginseng fermented humectants. Panax ginseng water is used as base for most of its products. Donginbi’s Jin or Cho line is known for its great quality and its oil is pretty famous as well.↖(^▽^)↗

Product Recommendation>>

Red Ginseng Daily Preparation Essence

Donginbi’s revitalization essence. It contains red ginseng extract and ginsenoides. Ginsenoide is widely studied anti-aging, skin conditioning agent obtained by steaming and condensing red ginseng. It also contains 2.5% of niacinamide for anti-aging, skin brightening agent. It has a little bit sticky texture but it is absorbed really quickly. It smells like ginseng because of its ingredient, so be aware of it if you don’t like. But I personally think it’s pretty pleasant.



Hera is one of the main brands of Korean cosmetic tycoon Amore Pacific. The main focus of this brand is cell. As its mother company is the largest cosmetic company in Korea, they invested abundant amount of fund on R&D. As a result, they have patterned molecules like body-fluid analogues (Cell fluid Sync TM) and anti-aging agents Cell OmniFocus. Hera is known for their Cell Bio skincare line or super expensive Signia line.

Product Recommendation>>

Cell Essence

Hera’s best selling first essence with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. It contains many unconventional glucose analogues, amino acids and lipids (seemingly they make Hera’s famous Cell Fluid Sync.) It hydrates skin pretty and leaves texture very velvety smooth. For the fun factor, this product is kwon as “Cheon Ji Hyun” essence in Korea. lol ㄟ(≧◇≦)ㄏ



Compare to LG Life and Sicnece or Amore Pacific, Enprani is a relatively small company but surely they have their own market segment. They are known as Holika Holika’s mother company in US. Enprani uses somewhat unconventional ingredient such as kinetin or ursolic acid for anti-aging agents. Dr. Hilda line for adult acne / Premier cell lifting line are famous.

Product Recommendation>>

Premier cell Volume lifting serum

It contains human adipose tissue driven stem cell medium and they claim it helps restore skin volume. There is not so many scientific researches to prove its efficacy, but I personally feel it helps. Anyway it is an excellent lifting/moisturizing serum as well but it has a little bit oily texture so be aware if this concerns you. ╰( ̄▽ ̄)╭

lifting serum

About, Antioxidants


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are the well-known enemy for your youthful skin. ╮(╯▽╰)╭ They are overly reactive molecules with oxygen in them, and they are made as byproducts of normal metabolism. ROS are considered as one of the primary cause of accelerated aging, and it is known that exposures to UV, pollution and stress increase the production of ROS. So we need to protect ourselves from ROS with antioxidants for a healthier life and agelessly glowing skin.

Actually, our body has plenty of defense mechanism against ROS such as SOD(superoxide dismutase),  CAT (catalase), and GPX (glutathione peroxidase). SOD removes superoxide that made through usual metabolism; CAT gets rid of peroxides and GPX deals with hydroxyl radicals. (I know, it’s a lot of chemistry, but don’t worry. I will reveal the beauty secret from the science of ROS, soon(^^).)

If they (SOD, CAT, GPX) were able to free us from the ROS, it would be graceful, but as we age, the secretion of those enzymes decreases. The bad news is ongoing UV, stress and pollution intensify the aging of our cells. But always good news comes after the bad news (Karma, huh?) We, human beings have identified many supplemental antioxidants, and they are widely available on the market. So prepares a list of products that contains excellent antioxidants for your dewy and radiant skin.

Glutathione is a well-known antioxidant, and it prevents cellular damage from free radicals and other ROSs. If it is used as a topical cosmetic, it also inhibits melanosynthesis (it means they block the creation of pigmentations on your skin) and promotes the skin brightening.
Surmedic Bright-Glutathione Mask Sheet: Relatively new to the market. Glutathione and other antioxidants brighten your skin and help prevent other skin impurities.
2.Vitamin C

Probably, everyone knows about Vitamin C’s antioxidant function. Vitamin C is relatively inexpensive (both orally taken tablets or cosmetics) but it is one of the most studied, proven and potent antioxidants.

Mediheal I.P.I Lightmax Hydro Nude Gel Mask: This hydrogel mask from the most popular sheet mask brand (Mediheal) in Korea contain Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin c derivative) makes your skin visibly radiant and moisturized in 20 min
3. Panax Ginseng Extract

Red ginseng is a Korean specialty from long times ago. Recently, many researchers have proved red ginseng’s ability to reduce oxidative stress in the skin cells. If you are a k-beauty fan, it is worth to try cosmetics with ginseng extract in it.

This cream used Panax ginseng water as base (meaning, they replaced water with ginseng water.) It contains a decent amount of moisturizing agent and niacinamide for brightening function.

 Matsuki, M; Watanabe, T; Ogasawara, A; Mikami, T; Matsumoto, T (2008). “Inhibitory mechanism of melanin synthesis by glutathione”. Yakugaku zasshi : Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan 128 (8): 1203–7. doi:10.1248/yakushi.128.1203.

Prasad, Sahdeo; Srivastava, Smita; Singh, Madhulika; Shukla, Yogeshwer (2009). “Clastogenic Effects of Glyphosate in Bone Marrow Cells of Swiss Albino Mice”. Journal of Toxicology 2009: 1–6.

Ramesh T1, Kim SW, Hwang SY, Sohn SH, Yoo SK, Kim SK.(2012) “Panax ginseng reduces oxidative stress and restores antioxidant capacity in aged rats” Nutritional Res. 2012 Sep; 32(9):718-26. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.08.005.